WASHINGTON — Defense Department leaders said today that the training of Ukrainian forces by Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine has paid off as Ukrainians defend their country against Russian forces.
Ukrainian service members trained at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center in the Lviv region of western Ukraine right up until the Russian invasion in February. The most recent trainers were part of Task Force Gator, composed of the Florida Army National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
From the beginning of that training mission until January 2022, the 7th Army Training Command had trained a total of 23,000 Ukrainians in Yavoriv, said Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Hilbert, commander of the 7th Army Training Command.
In February, the U.S. European Command repositioned Task Force Gator to Grafenwoehr, Germany, where the unit continues to train Ukrainians on a variety of U.S. and NATO weaponry to enable them to defend their nation.
Training included antitank weapons systems, doctrine, operations and, importantly, the development of a competent noncommissioned officer corps, he said. He noted that NCOs who have been through the training can take the initiative and make tactical decisions based on their commanders' intentions.
"The biggest mistake that the Russians made was giving us eight years to prepare for this [war]," Hopkins mentioned a Ukrainian as stating to a U.S. trainer.
Army Lt. Col. Jeremy "Todd" Hopkins, deputy commander of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said the goal of training is to get the Ukrainians back into the fight as quickly as possible and with the proficiency they need to operate weapons platforms that are being rushed into their hands by the U.S. and partner nations.
"They're doing really well with the training that we've given them. And I'm very confident with their abilities as they go forward," Hilbert said.
"[Ukrainian] soldiers are extremely competent and eager to learn the systems that we are providing them. … They're absolutely focused on the task at hand and getting back to Ukraine," he said.